Thursday, February 18, 2010

PCC Wimps Out Again

So the Press Complaints Commission has ruled in favour of Jan Moir over her Stephen Gateley article.

I am sure that you are as shocked as I am.


Letters From A Tory said...

I covered the PCC's very nuanced ruling this morning on my blog, suffice to say that they ultimately (and rightly) protected freedom of expression in this instance.

Jan Moir's article was certainly distasteful and the PCC agreed that it was partly inaccurate as well, but she still has every right to her opinions.

Ben said...

od news for all those who believe in freedom of speech.

Moriarty said...

Come off it Iain, newspaper columnists have a duty to offend and the rest of us have a duty to tolerate it. If you tolerate only those things of which you approve then that's not really tolerance is it?

golden_balls said...

Did you expect anything different

The PPC is outdated it needs to be reformed will DC have the courage to do this ? Labours had 13 years with a huge majority and nothing. I won't hold my breath.

Paul said...

Hang on a second; are you for censorship of the press or against?

boulay said...

hi iain,

to be honest i am not shocked. whilst she had terrible manners and bad taste there are many many articles in the press and on the internet i see every day that "offend me" but that is life - you pay your money you take your choice.

i do wonder how many of the 25,000 who complained actually read the daily mail or were directed to it by the outrage in the media.

i cannot remember your own reasons for being offended at the time but i only hope, as a regular reader and someone who appreciates most of your views, you did not take offence merely as "a member of the gay community" standing up for "your own" (by the way this is not in any way meant to be derogatory) rather than a reasoned disagreement with the facts of the rather rude columnists' article.

free speech seems to be under constant attack these days which means that those of us who value it unfortunately have to accept there will be things produced that we do not like.

i do not want to see pictures of beheadings by iraqi insurgents so i do not go online and look for them. people who did not buy the daily mail and stumble across the argument should not have followed the outrage and gone and put themselves in the way of something "offensive" - it is just common sense.

now get back to hounding david wright!

Village Bookworm said...

No,not as it happens Iain. It is called freedom of speech.
You, and I, may be repelled by her views, and the fact that a national newspaper saw fit to pay her for them. She broke no law and was not inciting a breach of the law.

However,her views will reflect those of a significant minority, who increasingly in this country are losing their freedom of speech and expression.

The freedom to openly and without fear live as a homosexual man or woman has to be one of the great social advances of the last fifty years.

This does not mean that those who, for whatever reason [religious or just born that way], are repelled by this and do not have any rights.

Tolerance works both ways.

Newmania said...

Not sure I get your point there Iain .If he was straight he would have been treated far worse given the circumstances of his death
Why should gays get special treatment and while I am on the subject why should gay men and wonmen be uniquely priveliged when it comes to adoption which has to be a bizarre inversion of all common sense ?

On the other hand I wonder if Hugh Muir whose hints that you were blocked as a candidate might have been thinking of anti gay prejudice in the Party.
If so he may well have a point.
If you want to be a victim thats where your victimhood lies. Its possible you just mafe a poor speech as you said , I doubt it though , you are an excellent speaker.

strapworld said...

hat do you want next Iain, Burning of the books.

We live in a society which, allegedly, allows free speech. Columnists express their opinions. Like you have today. I disagree with you but I do not wish to stop you expressing your viewpoint, as I am sure, you will not stop me expressing mine.

I detest many views written by many columnists but accept their right to write them.

Paul Burgin said...

True, but look at who heads the PCC.
The mere fact that it has tabloid Editors on it's executive means that it's a neutered organisation from the word go

Anonymous said...

No Iain, It's called free speech.

Shane Frith said...

No. In a free society, people are free to be crass.

Brian said...

How very dare they!

The Purpleline said...

On balance, I believe they made the right decision. The Jan Moir article was poor timing, but to her chosen audience Daily Mail, it posed an honest question that is valuable to debate on the subject of civil same sex partnerships.

For Daily Mail readers and Jan Moir target readership, it is valid to point out the sordid nature of the surrounding atmosphere in which poor Stephen died.

It is time Gay’s stopped being so defensive, stop campaigning for better treatment, you are not special, with success, and Gay movement has had tremendous success, comes responsibilities. I fear the Gay community have not actually thought about the message behind normalising homosexuals in the confines of a civil partnership.

Yes, heterosexual couples swing have sex outside the partnership and you can bet your life the NOTW would write a piece regarding the circumstances of a death of one partner under the same conditions and leave the thought something was wrong.

It does not say all civil partnerships are bad, but it highlights they are normal and have the same pressures and sexual relationships as some heterosexual couples.

Get a life this is the new normal.

The only error as I said was the timing of the article not the content.

deBréauté said...

Christ! Not you as well? Go and join the circle jerk on Twitter if you think Moir's done anything wrong. If you think that people should be censured for opinions you don't like you'd be happier in the Labour Party.

Anonymous said...

Why should the PCC pass judgment on an opinion column?

happiness said...

Not shocked, as I believe in free speech even when it offends no matter who it offends or how it offends. There should be no place for thought police in a modern state.

Vulpus_rex said...


I'm gayer than you Iain but other than the timing found there was little in that article to dispute.

If Gately dies whilst taking a break from a threesome with his "husband" and Bulgarian pick up I don't think it is unfair to suggest that he died in circumstances some would describe as squalid.

Mark said...

I am not shocked and I agree with the decision. I am a gay man and in a Civil Partnership. I have re-read Jan Moir's article this morning and she makes some very valid comments which in no way can be regarded as homophobic and which would equally well apply had straight people been involved. Many of my gay friends agree that such a lifestyle and behaviour is sleazy. You either agree with free speech or you do not and I'm afraid that sometimes people will have an opinion with which one does not agree. That's life I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

hmmm... first of all I had a few palpitations, then I decided you were being sarcastic, then I took another look at the post's headline and thought maybe I'd got it wrong.

For the sake of clarity, could you confirm that anyone is entitled to express an opinion?

Nigel said...

"PCC Wimps Out Again"

I'm not sure that I agree. They are not, and should not be in the business of censoring opinion pieces, however vile or distasteful such pieces might be. Despite her apology, Jan Moir seems to be a woman of unpleasant and irrational views, but she has a right to express those views, if they fall short of illegal incitement.

As Stephen Gateley was a public figure whose death occasioned a torrent of media coverage, it would also be hard to sustain a case for invasion of privacy.

The remedy lies in the market (as the Sun found out after Hillsborough). Don't buy the rag.

Anonymous said...

The article was merely tasteless, priggish, ill-timed, self-righteous and insensitive. She's hardly the first, and quite possibly won't be the last, columnist to exhibit such characteristics in her writing. It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some of them might even write for the 'Daily Mail'.

One of the reliable rules of life, I find, (even more certain than the Reverse Rees-Mogg; to save thinking time, a stance diametrically opposed to R-M's is rarely wrong) is that anyone who reads the 'Mail' forfeits the right to have their opinions on anything to be taken seriously. How much more must that rule apply to people who write for it!


Who's the chairman of the PCC? Oh, its Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail. Hmmmmm......

Unknown said...

As an old-fashioned liberal, I agree with the PCC on Gatelygate. Moir & the Mail were rightly held in contempt, helped by the Twitterverse. But I defend to the death the right to say something offensive unless it falls into the "Shouting `fire' in a crowded room" category.

Censoring free comment that offends would end free speech and be welcomed by those who wanted to ban Satanic Verses and similar targets that offended Muslims

Robert said...

What was there in the article that you disliked?

All the 'revelations' since the article was published have reinforced it's validity.

Healthy 35 year old men (or women) do not usually die suddenly in their sleep unless there is some other underlying cause.

This goes for heterosexual or homosexual men.

Moriarty said...


Have you ever read Craig Brown's diary parody of Rees Mogg? It begins something like: "As I was being shaved this morning..."

Comic genius.

Stepney said...

Is it better to publish opinions which stimulate discussion and increases the empathy of the public, or to have no debate which sustains the maintenance of the status quo?

Bit of a no brainer if you ask me.

Gregory Spawton said...

Like most of the commentators here (so far at least) I think you called this one wrong Iain. Free speech is important enough to allow people to offend from time to time. And the hounding of Moir got way out of hand.

Nayan said...

Iain this is a victory for freedom of speech. I know you are closer to this story than most (being gay), but look at it from a neutral standpoint, yes it was distasteful and had anti-gay undertones but there are better ways to combat this than wholesale censorship.

Censorship is never the answer in democratic countries, it's the same situation as the Muhammed cartoons in Denmark, if you don't like it don't buy/read it, no one is forcing people to read this. It's not like the Daily Mail put a gun to everyone's head and said read this or I pull the trigger. People should be allowed to say whatever they hell they want without fear of reprisal from anyone. If certain groups of people don't like it (gay people in this case, Muslim people in the case of the cartoons) then they can lump it, because there are people who don't mind it or want to read/look at this stuff.

We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard - Voltaire

OldSlaughter said...

What sort of Tory are you Iain?

I am disappointed by this post. But perhaps it would be explicable if you were to explain exactly what you think the PCC should have done and what punishment should be imposed. Perhaps also you could explain which lines of argument she was making need to be censored?

Please make you position more clear Iain.

I strongly disliked Moir's article and have posted on it. But she did not incite violence or hatred. She expressed an opinion albeit a pretty stupid one.

People complained, she apologised and her reputation has been damaged accordingly. That is how it should happen in a free society. So the response you are advocating is that an authority comes down and starts throwing weight around over issues of content?

Common Law incitement to violence and fraud should be the restrictions on free speech. You seem to be advocating the punishment of thought crime.
Thin end of the wedge and all that.

Perhaps though I misunderstand you.
You really should clarify.

Elby the Beserk said...

Sorry, Iain, have to disagree. Yes, I found it tasteless, and the timing was appalling - but if we are to lose the right to offend others - something Labour have done their very best to put into legislation - then we will all have to walk around with gags on.

Newmania said...

True, but look at who heads the PCC.
The mere fact that it has tabloid Editors on it's executive means that it's a neutered organisation from the word go

Yes and look who pays for the Labour Party , Unite . Now thats Party we can trust to get Public spending under control

Elby the Beserk said...

Roger Thornhill said...

V disappointed, Iain. If you want to be a legislator in the HoC you need to cast aside such gut reactions and think about the Rule of Law even when you are upset or offended.

You failed the test.

I thought better of you.

Shamik Das said...

Dare I say it, a case of PCC gone mad?!

p smith said...

Iain, you are a Tory. You choose to associate with some people who hold views just as abhorrent or deliberately dishonest as Jan Moir's.

It's just that when they offend other right wing hate targets (immigrants, liberals, Obama, environmentalists) you find it easier to tolerate that for some reason. At least she is consistently offensive and when you read her musings you know what you are going to get.

If you do want to still be an MP (and I do hope you haven't given up) you will need to grow thicker skin otherwise articles like hers and Heffer's in the DT yesterday (where he referred to the Surrey East selection process as being dominated by women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals) will continue to upset you.

Unknown said...

Yes, Iain, it's outrageous. How dare these people think they should be allowed to express opinions with which you disagree?

Don't they understand that Iain Dale's sensibilities are the ultimate arbiter of freedom of speech? Don't they understand that Iain Dale alone has the right to decide what is acceptable speech and what is not?

Liberty be damned, so long as Iain Dale doesn't have to read anything he doesn't like.

Quietzapple said...

Quite unsurprised and merely disappointed.

This sort of thing might be approached in a codified Bill of Rights which Brown and Straw intend.

Where the lines are to be drawn will engage debate for rather longer than Carswell/Hannan imagine in their "The Plan" or Chameleon in policy PR276 Sub Sec BILLORIGHTS.

The Sibil said...

Most people seem to have had a knee-jerk reaction to Jan Moir's article, and not read it properly, (or her subsequent apologetic article). I am shocked that Iain of all people is one of them.

As is so often suggested, just substitute a different noun for gay or homosexual and you would see that her article was a diatribe against all hedonistic behaviour and not homophobic at all.

Indy said...

It's not about expressing an opinion which people can agree or disagree with!

1. She drew comparisons between his death and the deaths of other public people of drugs overdoses. Stephen Gately died of natural causes.

2. She referred to his death as being related to "dark appetites" and "private vice". Stephen Gately died of natural causes.

3. She compared him other celebrities "with secret and not-so-secret troubles, or damaging habits both past and present." Stephen Gately died of natural causes.

Do you get where I am going here?

Stephen Gately was not a drug addict. He did not commit suicide. He died as a result of a congenital heart defect.

In other words, this poisonous woman's article was based on a completely false premise - a premise that she had simply made up.

The fact that she published it before he was even buried just adds insult to injury.

I do not know how any of you can defend it. If it was your friend or partner or child that was traduced in this way I doubt you would be so blase.

golden_balls said...

freedom of expression fine i agree with you all on that point.

But press intrusion one day before the funeral with an article that questioned the verdict of the coroner.

Her insinuation that he didn't die of natural causes and that his sexuality played a part in his death.

If you want to make a homophobic rant at least have the decency to do it after the man is buried.

I think it was never about the article itself it contained blatant inaccuracies but thats the daily mail for you.

The article intended to shock thats Moirs style. I don't think anyone will truly understand the hurt and grief this type of article can cause until you go through a similar situation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Ian, I'm with LFAT on this one.

I think the deserved shellacking Moir got from the general public, which no matter how strident her self-justification, must have made her sphincter clench somewhat, and was a welcome example of free speech in action.